Pompeo says North Korea’s Kim ready to allow inspectors into nuclear, missile sites

US State Secretary Mike Pompeo with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during Pompeo’s short visit to Pyongyang. (AFP/KCNA via KNS)
Updated 08 October 2018
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Pompeo says North Korea’s Kim ready to allow inspectors into nuclear, missile sites

  • Pompeo said the inspectors would visit a missile engine test facility and the Punggye-ri nuclear testing site

SEOUL: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was ready to allow international inspectors into the North’s nuclear and missile testing sites, one of the main sticking points over an earlier denuclearization pledge.
Pompeo, who met Kim during a short trip to Pyongyang on Sunday, said the inspectors would visit a missile engine test facility and the Punggye-ri nuclear testing site as soon as the two sides agree on logistics.
“There’s a lot of logistics that will be required to execute that,” Pompeo told a news briefing in Seoul before leaving for Beijing.
The top US diplomat also said both sides were “pretty close” to agreement on the details of a second summit, which Kim proposed to US President Donald Trump in a letter last month.
Trump and Kim held a historic first summit in Singapore in June.
“Most importantly, both the leaders believe there’s real progress that can be made, substantive progress that can be made at the next summit,” Pompeo said.
Stephen Biegun, new US nuclear envoy who was accompanying the secretary, said he offered on Sunday to meet his counterpart, Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, “as soon as possible” and they were in discussion over specific dates and location.
Pompeo’s trip to Pyongyang, his fourth this year, followed a stalemate as North Korea resisted Washington’s demands for irreversible steps to give up its nuclear arsenal, including a complete inventory of its weapons and facilities.
He told South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Sunday his latest trip to Pyongyang was “another step forward” to denuclearization but there are “many steps along the way.”

Inspection
At last month’s inter-Korean summit, the North expressed its willingness to close the Yongbyon nuclear complex if Washington takes corresponding action, which Moon said would include a declaration of an end to the 1950-53 Korean War.
Pompeo declined to comment whether there was progress on a shutdown of the Yongbyon site.
Moon also said the North will “permanently dismantle” its missile engine testing site and launch platform in the northwestern town of Tongchang-ri in the presence of experts from “concerned countries.”
But Pyongyang failed to keep its pledge to allow international inspections of its demolition of the Punggye-ri site in May, fanning criticism that the move could be reversed.
In July, satellite imagery indicated the North has begun dismantling the engine test site in Tongchang-ri, but without allowing outsiders access for verification. And the Stimson Center’s 38 North said last week that no dismantling activity was spotted since Aug. 3.
Some experts say that opening the Tongchang-ri or Punggye-ri sites for inspection could be a goodwill gesture but has little significance in quickening denuclearization.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement Kim had invited inspectors to visit the Punggye-ri nuclear test site to confirm it had been irreversibly dismantled. The statement did not provide further details.

Smiles, handshakes
In a more upbeat note, Pyongyang’s state media said on Monday Kim lauded his talks with Pompeo, where Kim “explained in detail the proposals for solving the denuclearization issue.”
“Kim Jong Un expressed satisfaction over the productive and wonderful talks with Mike Pompeo at which mutual stands were fully understood and opinions exchanged,” North Korean news agency KCNA said.
Kim said the bilateral dialogue would continue to develop “based on the deep confidence between the two leaders,” and expressed gratitude to Trump for making a sincere effort to implement the agreement made at their June summit, KCNA said.
KCNA also said the two sides agreed to hold working negotiations for the second summit as early as possible.
But it did not mention any inspection-related issue.
Commenting on Pompeo’s meeting with Kim, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Kim was expected to visit Russia soon. He said Chinese leader Xi Jinping was also expected to travel to North Korea but did not elaborate further.
North Korea’s state newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, featured eight photos of the meeting on its front page, including shots of Kim and Pompeo smiling and shaking hands, as well as some with Kim’s sister Kim Yo Jong.
North Korea denounced Pompeo on his previous trip to Pyongyang in July for making “gangster-like demands.” Pompeo did not meet Kim on that trip.


MH17 crash probe set to name suspects

A pro-Russian separatist stands at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo) in Donetsk region, Ukraine, July 18, 2014. (REUTERS)
Updated 22 min 1 sec ago
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MH17 crash probe set to name suspects

  • Since 2014, some 13,000 people have been killed in the war in the east, which erupted after a popular uprising ousted Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin president and Russia annexed Crimea

THE HAGUE: International investigators are on Wednesday expected to announce charges against several suspects in the shooting down of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine five years ago in an attack which killed all 298 people on board.
The Dutch-led probe has said it will first inform families, and then hold a press conference to unveil “developments in the criminal investigation” into the downing of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777.
The breakthrough comes nearly a year after the investigators said that the BUK missile which hit the plane had originated from a Russian military brigade based in the southwestern city of Kursk.
The airliner traveling between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur was torn apart in mid-air on July 17, 2014 over territory in eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russian separatists.
Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister Olena Zerkal told Interfax-Ukraine news agency on Tuesday that four people would be named over MH17, including senior Russian army officers.
“The names will be announced. Charges will be brought, Zerkal said, adding that a Dutch court would then “start working to consider this case.”
Zerkal added that the transfer of weapons like the BUK anti-aircraft missile system “is impossible without the (Russian) top brass’s permission” and said others would have been involved beyond those being charged.

The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the attack — which includes Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine — has declined to confirm that it will announce charges.
The Netherlands and Australia said last May that they formally “hold Russia responsible” for the disaster, after the findings on the origin of the missile were announced. Of the passengers who died, 196 were Dutch and 38 were Australian.
Moscow has vehemently denied all involvement.
Dutch broadcaster RTL, quoting anonymous sources, said the suspects could be tried in absentia as Russia does not extradite its nationals for prosecution.
“I expect there will be important new information. That means the inquiry is advancing,” Piet Ploeg, president of a Dutch victims’ association who lost three family members on MH17, was quoted as saying by broadcaster NOS on Friday.
“It’s the first step to a trial.”
Investigative website Bellingcat said separately it will also name “individuals linked to the downing of MH17” on Wednesday. It said its reporting was “totally independent and separate from the JIT’s investigation.”

The JIT said last year that MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile from the 53rd anti-aircraft brigade based in Kursk, but that they were still searching for suspects.
They showed videos and animation of the BUK launcher as part of a Russian military convoy, using video clips found on social media and then checked against Google Maps, as it traveled from Kursk to eastern Ukraine.
Investigators said they had also identified a ‘fingerprint’ of seven identifying features that were unique to the BUK including a military number on the launcher.
Russia insisted last year that the missile was fired by Kiev’s forces, adding that it was sent to Ukraine in the Soviet era and had not been returned to Russia.
The Netherlands said it would study the information but added that details previously provided by Russia — such as the alleged presence of a Ukrainian jet near the airliner on radar images — were incorrect.
Ties between Moscow and The Hague were further strained last year when the Dutch expelled four alleged Russian spies for trying to hack into the Dutch-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
The war in eastern Ukraine and the MH17 disaster continue to plague relations between Russia and the West.
Since 2014, some 13,000 people have been killed in the war in the east, which erupted after a popular uprising ousted Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin president and Russia annexed Crimea.
Kiev and its Western backers accuse Russia of funnelling troops and arms to back the separatists. Moscow has denied the claims despite evidence to the contrary.